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Saturday, August 6, 2011

THESE ARE THE DAMNED (aka THE DAMNED) (1963)

Hammer Studios were known for their vividly Eastman-Colored Gothic Horror reboots and for b&w end-of-the-world ‘thinking man’s’ sci-fi fare. That’s what we’ve got here: a top-secret government project; a couple of lovebirds who stumble upon the conspiracy; a high-tech research facility aboveground and a sterile warren underground for the young human guinea pigs; and, of course, a gang of village Teddy Boys whose anti-social behavior precipitates the kerfuffle. (Teddy Boys? You know, British biker blokes like the Hell’s Angels.) Odd components for any pic, and THE DAMNED then added Joseph Losey, the blacklisted Hollywood helmer, to the mix. He brought the same edgy chip-on-his-shoulder attitude that would prove so effective in the series of psychologically threatening Harold Pinter scripts he made right after this, beginning with THE SERVANT/’63. Losey adds a sense of chic modern dread to this low-budget fare, layered between all the angst-ridden dead-end relationships and societal malaise. In particular, the two main couples, Macdonald Carey/Shirley Ann Field & Alexander Knox/Viveca Lindfors are disturbingly ill-matched in age, looks & temperament while the young Oliver Reed is a pretty scary presence all on his own. The whole thing plays out like a DR. WHO episode directed by Michelangelo Antonioni.

DOUBLE-BILL: Don’t confuse this with Luchino Visconti’s Nazi drama of the same name. But do confuse it with VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED/’60 for a good creepy-kids DoubleBill. (Just don’t confuse that film with its lesser sequel, CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED/’64, or with John Carpenter's 1995 remake.)

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